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Unbeaten Rebels head into region play
Khiry Wallace
The Rebels’ Khiry Wallace pulls up for a shot during a Nov. 26 home game against Savannah Country Day. He tallied a game-high 13 points. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

SPRINGFIELD — Head coach Jake Darling doesn’t think things are quite as rosy for his team as its unbeaten record might indicate.

He has a few thorny concerns for the Effingham County Rebels, who topped Benedictine, Jenkins, South Effingham and Savannah Country Day in a season-opening stretch from Nov. 21-26.

“The biggest takeaway I’ve had from the last four games is that we are sloppy around the rim,” Darling said following a 60-37 thrashing of Savannah Country Day on Nov. 26. “We’ve missed double-digit layups right around the rim every single game and we’ve had fifteen-plus turnovers every game.”

Darling believes his team has benefitted from playing the flurry of non-region contests, however.

“You definitely see things that you don’t see in practice in regard to things players need to work on,” he said. 

The busy early slate was not an accident.

“We kind of scheduled it that way because we didn’t know what was going to have because of football,” Darling said. “I wanted to push our games back as far as possible, which caused the games to kind of pile up on us.”

The non-region string of games will be broken Friday when Effingham County, which has struggled against defensive pressure, hosts Region 2-AAAAAA Glynn Academy at 7:30 p.m.  

“We turn the ball over way too much,” Darling said. “We left them with the question — coach (Ben) Brickhouse and myself — ‘What are you going to do when you have a team that is as athletic as you and executes its offense as well or better? How are you going to respond?’

“Right now, I don’t think our execution is where it needs to be.”

Darling thinks Glynn Academy might the team that provides the answers to those questions.

“With it being a region game, there is a lot on the line ...” he said.

The Rebels will face another stiff challenge on their home floor at 4 p.m. Saturday against Statesboro.

“Statesboro could definitely be that team,” Darling said.

He continued, “Those missed layups are going to be the deciding factor of a game. Those turnovers are going to be the deciding factor of the game if somebody pushes us back. Tonight, we just kind of outlasted (Savannah Country Day) and we have to do better next week.”

Khiry Wallace paced the Rebels against the Hornets with 13 points. Keion Wallace added 11 and Shemar Westbrook chipped in eight. Caleb Williams and Miquel Allen tallied seven apiece.

Westbrook is the lone senior in that group. The rest are freshmen or sophomores.

“I really like my team,” Darling said. “I really like the guys and they are getting better everyday ... They just haven’t been through the fire yet.

“This will be the first time that they have experienced all this.”

Darling expressed confidence that more of his team’s layups will eventually find their mark.

“But the turnovers and (missed) free throws worry me,” he said. “If we can cut all those numbers down by a third, we are beating teams by thirty or forty points.”